Individualization of access =?iso-8859-1?Q? 10 Jun 1996 14:37 UTC

Dear fellow librarians,

I have been the librarian of the chemistry library in
a european state university for 26 years. So I have lived
through many changes in my working environment.

Organizational and technical innovations, from SDI to the
Internet, including online searching, the CD-rom etc...
dramatically enlarged our vista of scientific knowledge,
considerably increased the amount of information at our
disposal and gives us the necessary tools to select the
one piece of information from that stuff.

However I have noted that the access to that well of information
is now denied to more and more people just because they or their
representatives, i.e. libraries, cannot afford the high
prices decided by publishers.

In the nineteenth century the captains of industry
sometimes spent a part of their property on building libraries,
schools and museums not only with the noble intent of
educating people and giving them literacy but also to
foster economic growth on which their wealth is based.

It seems that nowadays such a long-term investment is obsolete
and that immediate return is the rule.
The result is a general empoverishment of libraries
and specially of academic ones, but I know of some
corporate documentation centers in Europe which ceased
their operations.

Libraries have been a big market in the last 20 years,
some said a captive market, but I have the feeling that
it is shrinking and it looks as if publishers
respond to that situation by a sort of suicidal
escalation which at terms is a threat to the universality
of knowledge, the education of future generations
and possibly the future of mankind.

What if the affluent only can access knowledge because he
can buy personal books, personal periodicals and personal
databases at a lower price, and sometimes much lower,
than libraries paid on behalf of their reading
communities, most members of which cannot afford the
so-called personal prices.
The issue is not only economic, it is political.

I know it is a highly sensitive topic and many of you
may not be ready to overtly discuss it. Nevertheless
I should be happy to hear of the opinion of other
people on that question. You may answer through my
personal (still free) email and if you know of some people
having already addressed it in the literature or in
other lists, I should be glad to know of them.


                                  Simone Jerome

This is my own opinion. It does not involve my institution.
Simone JEROME, Librarian
University of Liege
Institute of chemistry B6
4000 Sart Tilman (Liege 1)